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Ross County lose final game of season to Dundee United in match marred by disruption from visiting fans

Blair Spittal in action for Ross County
Blair Spittal in action for Ross County

Ross County ended the season with a 2-1 defeat at home to Dundee United in a match marred by constant disruption caused by the travelling supporters.

The Staggies went into the game having already fallen out of the running for a European place, with a sixth-placed finish guaranteed regardless of the outcome.

County had taken the lead through Blair Spittal, however Nicky Clark’s double turned the game on its head to secure United fourth place.

Although it was entertaining end of season spectacle throughout, the game was delayed on several occasions due to a number of pyrotechnics being thrown on to the field of play, while United’s supporters twice invaded the pitch.

Pyrotechnics were thrown on to the playing field by Dundee United fans.

Despite ending the campaign in defeat, County will reflect on a successful campaign in which they secured a top-six finish for the first time since 2016, even if a European push proved a step too far for them.

With the pressure off the Staggies, Malky Mackay took the chance to rotate his squad. Local youth products Ross Munro and Adam Mackinnon were handed their first Premiership starts, while Ben Paton and Declan Drysdale were also drafted in. Regulars Regan Charles-Cook, Jordan White and Connor Randall also returned to the starting line-up from the side which lost 4-1 to Rangers at Ibrox in midweek.

The match was far from meaningless for United, who were still pushing to secure fourth place in order to shave an extra round off their Europa Conference League qualification campaign. Tam Courts’ men were backed by a bumper visiting support, with a number of pyrotechnics and streamers being thrown on to the park to prompt a delay of more than five minutes to kick-off.

It was County who had the first goal threat on 11 minutes however, with Blair Spittal getting a shot off from long-range at the second attempt, but seeing his effort drift just wide of Benjamin Siegrist’s post.

Adam Mackinnon in action for Ross County.

United began to create opportunities at the other end, with a Ross Graham through ball finding Archie Meekison, who dragged his shot wide on the quarter-hour mark. Tony Watt called Munro into action for the first time shortly afterwards, with his effort comfortably gathered by the young Staggies goalkeeper.

Spittal was presented with an almost identical chance to his early effort when he was slipped in by Joseph Hungbo on 31 minutes, however he once again struck just wide.

A third attempt by the lively Spittal this time tested Siegrist, with the Swiss goalkeeper doing well to hold on to the former United midfielder’s rasping drive from the edge of the box.

There were further chances at both ends prior to the interval, with Watt sending a free header over from a corner, while a deep Drysdale cross just evaded the far post run of Charles-Cook.

The best first half chance fell to United’s Meekison however, who went through on goal before seeing his cushioned effort come back off Munro’s right-hand post.

Another opportunity fell to Kieran Freeman when he was picked out by Watt’s cutback, but he was off balance as he sent his effort high over the bar.

United should have taken the lead just three minutes into the second half when a loose ball ball broke for Dylan Levitt who only had to hit the target from eight yards, but sidefooted wide.

Mackay freshened his side up on 52 minutes, by introducing Harry Paton to partner his brother Ben in midfield, while Josh Sims was brought on to make his debut in place of Charles-Cook.

Paton nearly had an immediate impact, with two efforts in close succession thwarted by Siegrist.

Another chance fell the way of Hungbo on 62 minutes when a combination of Paton and Spittal worked the ball into his path, however his strike was just too high.

County’s breakthrough arrived in spectacular style just three minutes later however, with Spittal this time making no mistake in finding Siegrist’s top left-hand corner with a pinpoint strike from 25 yards.

Blair Spittal celebrates netting for Ross County.

It was a deserved lead based on County’s second half performance, but it lasted only five minutes. The ball broke to United substitute Imari Niskanen inside a crowded penalty box, with Paton penalised for tripping him as he looked to pull the trigger. Clark stepped up and sent Munro the wrong way to level the scoring.

Both sides pushed for a winner, which came United’s way in the 89th minute when Levitt squeezed a ball across goal which was tucked home by Clark, prompting a pitch invasion from the travelling supporters.

The disruption continued after the full-time whistle when County’s end of season lap of honour was delayed by another burst of United fans entering the field, however Mackay and his players were given a standing ovation by the Staggies supporters who remained following an impressive campaign.

 

ROSS COUNTY (4-2-3-1) – Munro 7; Randall 6 (Wright 83), Drysdale 7, Baldwin 6, Vokins 6; Spittal 8, B Paton 6; Hungbo 6, Mackinnon 6 (H Paton 52), Charles-Cook 6 (Sims 52) White 6. Subs not used – Laidlaw, D Samuel, Burroughs, Ramsay, Tillson, Wright, MacLeman.

DUNDEE UNITED (3-5-2) – Siegrist 7; Smith 6, Edwards 6, Graham 6; Freeman 6, Levitt 7, Mulgrew 6, Meekison 6 (McDonald 80), McMann 6 (Niskanen 55); Clark 7, Watt 6. Subs not used – Eriksson, Sporle, Neilson, Mochrie, Thomson, Cudjoe Anim.

Referee – Nick Walsh 6

Attendance – 5,165

Man of the match: Blair Spittal

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